Friday, August 30, 2013

No Spend September

We're in the midst of a job and financial transition. So we've determined that September will be a no-spend month!

Actually, maybe we should call it a "no frills" or "no extras" month for a  more accurate description!

We will still pay our bills--the mortgage, insurance, gas/electric and so on. We will buy groceries. We will keep the cars filled with gas. We will buy necessities.

We won't buy dog food but we have a brand-new bag that will last for 2 months. We won't be doing a pantry challenge as such, but will be working to stretch the grocery budget as much as possible--whatever I can save in this area would be helpful to use elsewhere.  We won't be eating out or going shopping except with gift cards that we already have. No thrifting or clothes shopping  unless we absolutely need something! We'll try to combine trips to save gas as much as possible.

We will enjoy being creative with what we have. We'll watch movies we already have or are on our Netflix or Hulu Plus subscriptions. We'll work on home projects that don't require extra spending. We'll eat at home for the most part and still extend hospitality.  We will be resourceful when we have to. We'll remind ourselves that this is temporary and this no-spend challenge is a way to stay in the black and be able to use our emergency fund for, well, an emergency.

We will count our blessings--there are many-- and remember that God is our Provider and our Source of all things. Finances and material blessings are just a small part of His provision.

Don't be surprised if most of my posts for September center around the topics of frugality, creativity and resourcefulness!  I'll also be sharing updates on our "no spend" challenge from time to time!

Would you like to join in with this challenge? Let me know in the comments! You can set your own rules and goals!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bread and Butter Pickles

We love bread and butter pickles! The homemade ones are so much better than what we get at the store.

This recipe is from my Mom although a very similar one is in my Ball canning book.

Pickles are a fairly easy food to can or "put up" as the old-timers call it. These do require a standing time of 3 hours before finishing the cooking and canning process so plan your day accordingly!

The pickles and onions need to be sliced pretty thin. I use the slicing blade on my food processor to do this and it only takes a few minutes!

Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes about 8 pints.

16 cups (4 quarts) sliced unpeeled cucumbers-the small ones are best for pickles.
6 cups sliced white onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup salt (non-iodized, canning and pickling salt)
5 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 Tablespoons mustard seed

Combine cucumber, onion and garlic in large bowl. Add salt and mix. Cover with ice and mix thoroughly. Let stand for 3 hours.

After 3 hours are up, drain well. DO NOT RINSE!

Combine remaining ingredients (sugar, vinegar and spices) in  a large pot. (I use a 6 quart and it is big enough for everything.) Add cucumber mixture and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Fill hot jars to 1/2 inch from the top. Adjust lids.

Carefully put jars in boiling water canner. After water comes back to a boil, process jars for 5-10 minutes.

Let cool in canner for a few minutes then remove from canner and place on towels on counter to cool completely.

Let cure for 6 weeks or so before opening to enjoy.

Jars of bread and butter pickles make wonderful Christmas gifts!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Refrigerator Pickles

Andy's mom makes these pickles and shared the recipe with me. They're easy to make and very yummy!

These are refrigerator pickles so no canning is needed. Just fill the jars as instructed and put in the fridge for a few days before opening to eat.

Refrigerator Pickles

Bring to boil in saucepan:
  •  1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Some dill, either fresh or dried
Pour over thinly sliced cucumbers in jars. Let cool.

Refrigerate several days before eating.

**Vinegar mixture makes enough for 1 quart jar. Any size jar can be used.
**Pickles stay good in the fridge for a while.


Friday, August 23, 2013

A Dog's Life

Andy took these pictures of Rock the other day and posted them to Facebook with statuses about how "hard" of a life Rock has.

Naturally, he got lots of likes and comments on these updates, because very few can resist a picture of a cute dog! Especially such a sleepy one laying on a cushy dog bed and a chenille blanket which at the moment is being used as a pillow.

One friend left a great comment that sums it all up. 

She said,
"A very rough life!! He has to decide which side to sleep on and does he lay top to tail or top to head. On the blanket or off? Over or under? There is NOTHING easy about this!!! LOL

Oh, to have such a life!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cucumbers and Pickles

A friend gave me a huge bag of pickling cucumbers.

Enough for a batch of bread and butter pickles...

Two quart jars of refrigerator pickles...

And a bowl of cucumber salad!

The cucumbers in our garden are done for the season so I was happy for this gift!

**Pickle recipes coming soon!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Guilty? (Video)

We found the remains of a rabbit in our backyard recently. We're not certain Rock had anything to do with the bunny's demise. However, this was his response when we asked him about it.

(If you're reading this via a blog reader, you may need to click through to view video.  And if you aren't able to view, let me know!)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Reminder To Read Ingredients Lists

 New bottle on the right--the packaging isn't the only change!

Recently, I used up a bottle of lemon juice and pulled a new one out of my pantry to use.

While pouring the lemon juice out of the bottle, I just happened to catch sight of the ingredient list. It included sugar and several other ingredients I didn't remember reading on the bottles before.

A few days later, I was organizing my recycling bin--to make room and squeeze a few more days out before a trip to the dump. I came across the old bottle and looked at the ingredients.
Old on the left; new on right.

Sure enough, they were very different.

Now, I realize that most  bottled lemon juices have additives and the most healthy lemon juice is what you squeeze yourself from fresh lemons. So I'm not even going to pretend that one bottle was healthy and the other is not. I buy bottled lemon juice for the convenience; I know there are some things added. I just don't think there needs to be that many of them!
Old bottle on the left; new on the right.

We try to limit added sugar in many of the products we buy, so I am a little disappointed that the new formula now has sugar and a bunch of other  additives.

That said, I will no longer be purchasing lemon juice from Aldi. If I need to purchase bottled lemon juice, I'll be looking for the purest form available affordably. Otherwise, I guess we'll be squeezing and freezing our own using this method. Not quite as convenient, but it would work.

Anyways, this is a reminder to me to read the ingredients periodically since they are known to change over time!

Do you read labels?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Adoption Gift

Our precious Baby Boy that we have been babysitting for almost a year just had his first birthday.

And not only were we celebrating his birthday but also the finalization of his adoption which took place on July 25th!

We wanted to give a meaningful gift to commemorate his adoption but also have it double as a birthday gift since the party was a celebration of both!

One year olds usually get so many toys and things that I was pretty sure his parents wouldn't mind something else.

I started looking online and on Pinterest for appropriate gift ideas and finally decided on this.

It was in our budget and a printable so we wouldn't have to wait for shipping, giving us ample time to get it printed elsewhere. Also, his mommy had this pinned on her adoption board so I knew she would like it!

Alison from Ten Tiny Toes Designs was awesome! The printable file appeared in my email approx. 40 minutes after ordering!

We chose to have this printed at Wal-mart as a mounted print. We had a coupon too! We love how it turned out.

I had such fun  making these cards the other day so I used the same technique to decorate wrapping paper and a matching card for this gift. I love decorating paper bags!:-)

Just wanted to share this if any of you are looking for a nice adoption gift!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Eva's Eggs


We've found an affordable source for fresh eggs! I'm very excited.

I've been able to get some fresh eggs from the farmer's market some weeks but they are usually $3.50-$4 a dozen. As many eggs as we eat, I simply cannot afford to buy a month's worth of eggs at that price. Even though they are worth every penny and are extremely nutritious.

So I was happy to discover that one of the ladies in the local Southern Gospel group that my husband is a part of has begun selling eggs from her chickens. For $2 a dozen. And she'll bring them to rehearsal each week, so I don't even have to make an extra trip even though her house isn't that far away.

I will gladly purchase what I can from her and then supplement with grocery store eggs if needed!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Scrap Buster: Pennant Cards

I opted out of my weekly farmer's market trip last night. We're pretty set on veggies and I wanted to spend a little time at home by myself working on a creative project!

I don't know about you, but even though I love sewing and creating is part of who I am, it's difficult for me to carve out a little time and then to start something. There's always other work to be done and by the time I can sit down to work on something, I'm exhausted and just want to sleep!

So this time, I made myself use the time creatively. I quickly cleaned the bathrooms then sat down for a little crafty fun until my husband returned home!

I saw these cute pennant cards the other day so had decided I wanted to make some! I had cards and of course, plenty of scraps!

These cards are what I call "imperfectly perfect". I didn't make a pattern to trace for identical triangles nor did I measure anything. I just cut and arranged to my heart's content!

There was a time when I would've been more worried about getting everything just right. It's incredibly freeing to just create for the sake of creating! And enjoy the result!

One card got a couple black smudges on it and I cut a little heart and just stitched it on over the mark on the front.

I finished the cards off with stamping some words for birthdays, congratulations, and a thank you!

I have recipients in mind for several of these but am planning to make some more of these for my gift drawer because wouldn't a little stack of these cards make a cute gift?